Here Comes Peter Cottontail is a 1971 Easter stop motion animated film produced by DreamWorks Pictures, Rankin/Bass Productions, based on the 1957 novel The Easter Bunny That Overslept by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich. The title of the movie is from the Easter song "Here Comes Peter Cottontail", which is also heard in the film. The name "Peter Cottontail" comes from a series of books by Thornton W. Burgess (1874–1965), although the film is not based directly on his books.
It was originally released in theaters on April 4, 1971, broadcast on ABC-TV on TBD, 1973, and in later years, appeared on CBS, Fox Family, The CW, and Cartoon Network. In 2006, it was followed by a computer-animated sequel, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie.
In this film, it tells a story about Peter Cottontail, an Easter Rabbit, who over-slept from his egg delivery duty, thanks to the ruthless January Q. Irontail, who scheme to take his place for delivering eggs to children in the world, but develop his new plans to deliver his own eggs made with nasty formula. So with the help of the French-accent worm pilot named Antoine, Peter must set out through different other holidays to both save Easter and reclaim his duty.
Peter Cottontail is a young Easter Bunny who lives in April Valley where all the other Easter Bunnies live and work, making Easter candy, sewing bonnets, and decorating and delivering Easter eggs.
Colonel Wellington B. Bunny, the retiring Chief Easter Bunny, names Peter his successor despite his boasting and lying. Peter, who has dreamed of being the Chief Easter Bunny almost his entire life, gladly accepts. January Q. Irontail, an evil, reclusive rabbit villain wants to be Chief Easter Bunny himself so he can ruin it for children after a child roller-skated over his tail and had to wear a prosthetic one made of iron. Irontail demands that Colonel Bunny hold a contest between himself, Peter and another candidate to see who wins since the Constitution of April Valley states that the Chief Easter Bunny should be the one who delivers the most eggs.
Arrogant Peter and a unlucky rabbit named Bonnie Bonnet accept Irontail's challenge, but Peter stays up all night partying with his friends. Although he tells his rooster to wake him up at 5:30 in the morning, Irontail sneaks into his house and feeds the rooster magic bubblegum, sealing its beak and Peter sleeps on, not hearing the crows from the popping bubblegum bubbles. Though Irontail tries all day to deliver eggs with unsuccessful results, he is only able to deliver one egg to a sleeping hobo. However, it's still one egg more than Peter ever delivered, while Bonnie had not good luck at delivering due to her bad luck, and got permanently turned into a bonnet by Irontail’s black magic egg. Therefore, Irontail becomes the new Chief Easter Bunny, passing laws to make Easter a disaster such as having eggs painted mud brown and concrete gray, ordering the candy sculptors to make chocolate tarantulas and octopi instead of bunnies and chicks, and having Easter galoshes instead of bonnets. Meanwhile, Peter, ashamed that his bragging and irresponsibility led to this tragedy, leaves April Valley until he meets Seymour S. Sassafras, an eccentric peddler and inventor, who supplies April Valley with the colors to paint the eggs from his Garden of Surprises, from red, white, and blue cabbages and purple corn to striped tomatoes and orange string beans. Sassafras then lets Peter use his Yestermorrowbile, a time machine, piloted by a French caterpillar named Antoine to take Peter back to Easter, deliver his eggs, win the contest, and defeat Irontail. Unfortunately, Irontail finds out about Peter's plan and sends his spider to sabotage the Yestermorrowbile's controls, allowing Peter and Antoine to go to any holiday but Easter.
Since the contest's rules don't specifically say the eggs must be delivered on Easter, Peter tries to give his eggs away at other holidays without success. On the Fourth of July, he lies to two boys by painting his eggs red, white, and blue and selling them as firecrackers. When that fails, they crashland on Halloween where Peter meets a witch named Madame Esmeralda and gives her a Halloween egg as a gift making the score a tie. When she calls the other Halloween inhabitants, Irontail sends Montresor the Bat out to steal Peter's eggs. After getting the eggs back, Peter tells Antoine they have to get back to Halloween, but they can't go back since Antoine has to land the craft to fix it.
After failing to give his eggs away on Thanksgiving, they go to Christmas Eve where Peter, dressed as Santa Claus, tries to sell his Christmas eggs on the streets, but the streets are deserted. Then Peter hears crying from a hat shop nearby where he meets up with Bonnie, who is sad because nobody wants to buy her. So Peter tells the shopkeeper that he'll trade her his Christmas eggs for Bonnie. Unfortunately, Irontail steals them again and Peter and Bonnie go after him, accidentally leaving Antoine behind. During the chase, Irontail crashes into Santa's sleigh where Santa demands to give the eggs back to Peter. Santa returns the eggs, but Peter is too sad to say thank you since they left Antoine behind. Afterwards, Peter and Bonnie land on Valentine's Day where Peter meets a beautiful girl bunny named Donna and Peter gives her a Valentine egg. As the two rabbits skating, Peter and Donna both suddenly fall in the thin ice to the water where they swiped to the rapids until they got rescued safely by other animals.
Meanwhile, Irontail finds the eggs and casts a spell on them, turning them all green, inside and out. As such, nobody wants the eggs anymore; even Donna gives her back. Along with Donna's help, Peter then vows to be more responsible and they land in the middle of St. Patrick's Day where he finally gets to give his green eggs away and wins the contest, becoming the official Chief Easter Bunny, Antoine returns as a butterfly, and Irontail is arrested by the police for his crimes and sentenced to be the April Valley janitor while Peter leads an Easter parade with all the characters from the story.
- Peter Cottontail - a young Easter Rabbit as the film’s main protagonist. He is an anthropomorphic white rabbit with his optimism of becoming a future Chief Easter Bunny for April Valley. Although he has his occasional habits of flopping his ear every time he makes lies, but grow back to normal size by telling the truth.
|Casey Kasem||Peter Cottontail|
|Danny Kaye||Seymour S. Sassafras / Colonel Wellington B. Bunny / Antoine|
|Vincent Price||January Q. Irontail|
|Joan Gardner||Bonnie Bonnet / Madame Esmerelda / Bonnet store owner / Mother / Sue / Woman|
|Paul Frees||Colonel Wellington's assistant / Man at Thanksgiving table / Santa Claus / Fireman / Rooster|
|Greg Thomas||Tommy / Boy 1|
|Jeff Thomas||Boy 2|
On May 28, 1971, Danny Kaye was the guest on the ABC-TV late night talk program The Dick Cavett Show. It was a ninety-minute salute not only to Kaye's career as a performer but also his work as an ambassador of UNICEF. During the show, Kaye also talked about working on Peter Cottontail and showed some raw footage on how the puppets were made and how the stop motion sequences were put together.
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail – Seymour S. Sassafrass
- The Easter Bunny Never Sleeps – Colonel Wellington B. Bunny, Chorus
- The Easter Bunny Always Sleeps (Irontail's reprise; the corrupted version of the Easter Bunny Never Sleeps) – Irontail
- If I Could Only Get Back to Yesterday – Seymour S. Sassafrass, Chorus
- When You Can't Get It All Together, Improvise – Antoine, Peter Cottontail, Chorus
- Be Mine Today – Peter Cottontail, Donna, Chorus
- In The Puzzle of Life – Seymour S. Sassafrass, Chorus
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail (reprise) – Seymour S. Sassafrass, Chorus
Home media releases
The film has seen multiple releases in various formats. In 1990, 1992, 1993, 1998, and 2002, it was released on VHS by Family Home Entertainment and Sony Wonder. It has also seen the following releases on DVD:
- February 12, 2002 (Sony Wonder)
- February 15, 2005 (Sony Wonder)
- February 10, 2009 (Genius Products/Vivendi Entertainment)
- February 18, 2014 (DreamWorks Pictures)
- TBD (Universal Studios)
The 2014 release is the first to include the sequel, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie. To date, no Blu-Ray release has been planned.
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail marked DreamWorks' last stop-motion feature film until 2000 with the release of Aardman's Chicken Run.